U.S. judge says FBI did not use excessive force against reporters

June 14, 2007

Original Case: March 27, 2006

Cossette Donalds Brown, Univisión Radio
Víctor Fernández, Tele Once Univisión
Annette Álvarez, Tu Universo Televisión
Normando Valentín, Televicentro
Víctor Sánchez, Televicentro
Joel Lago, Radio Isla

A federal judge has ruled that FBI agents did not use excessive force against a group of Puerto Rican journalists who were covering a raid against a local separatist group last year.

U.S. District Judge José Fusté said in his June 13 ruling that the agents “did not act unreasonably in using pepper spray” or in “kicking, punching, or hitting [the journalists] with batons,” The Associated Press reported.

Fusté said courts have previously found that law enforcement officers “may reasonably use force against members of a crowd when they ignore instructions to disperse and create a potential safety threat,” the AP reported.
The journalists told the Puerto Rican press that they were planning to appeal the decision.

The incident occurred on February 10, 2006, outside a San Juan condominium complex where FBI agents had executed a search warrant in the investigation of a Puerto Rican separatist group.

The altercation began when FBI agents emerged from a building and found a group of journalists in the parking lot. When the reporters started asking questions, the FBI ordered them to leave. By then, the gate to the complex was closed, and journalists were apparently unable to move away. FBI agents repeated the order, and when the journalists didn’t comply, the agents sprayed them with pepper spray.